Seton Healthcare Family pledges $250 million for new hospital

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The Seton Healthcare Family pledged $250 million Sunday to build a new hospital that would replace University Medical Center Brackenridge and move UT one step closer to establishing a medical school in Austin.

Seton outlined its agreement with Central Health, Travis County’s health care taxing authority, in a non-binding letter of intent. The letter did not propose a location for the hospital.

Seton and Central Health acknowledge that UT is considering creating a medical school in Austin, and Seton and Central Health agreed to cooperate with UT to assist in the creation of that school, according to the letter.

UT was not party to the negotiations or the agreement, said Greg Hartman, president and CEO of Seton Medical Center Austin and University Medical Center Brackenridge.

“The agreement was not about UT at all,” Hartman said. “There are discussions going on with UT about a possible new medical school, but nothing has been agreed to.”

The new hospital will facilitate more healthcare training in Texas, regardless of whether UT founds a medical school in Austin, Hartman said.

“Whether we have a new medical school or not, we need a new teaching hospital,” he said. “We need a new hospital to meet the needs of the safety net population and to meet academic programs of research.”

The new hospital will fulfill goals set by UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UT system spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said.

“Chancellor Cigarroa calls for the expansion of medical education programs in Austin,” de Bruyn said. “The development of a state-of-the-art teaching hospital will play well into the UT System framework.”

The letter also outlined ways that Seton and Central Health will collaborate to reform health care in Texas, Hartman said.

“[The new hospital] will be the first major hospital built [in Texas] since federal health care reform,” Hartman said. “The agreement [between Seton and Central Health] is about changing the health care system to have a more efficient system of care that reduces hospitalization.”

The collaboration between Seton and Central Health, which began in 2004, has been productive but needs improvement, said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin,in a memo addressed to Mayor Lee Leffingwell Saturday.

“We have insufficient primary care, inadequate specialty care, very limited mental and behavioral health services, little chronic disease management, increasingly outdated hospitals and limited access to medical school resources,” Watson said. “Money alone is not enough — a fact that Central Health, Seton and professionals across our community recognize.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as: Seton pledges $250 million to new hospital